Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.David, by God’s direction, with his company goeth up to Hebron, where he is made king of Judah, 2 Samuel 2:1-4. He commendeth them of Jabesh-gilead for burying Saul, 2 Samuel 2:5-7. Abner maketh Ish-bosheth king of Israel, 2 Samuel 2:8-11. A mortal fight between twelve of Abner’s and twelve of Joab’s men, 2 Samuel 2:12-17. Asahel pursueth Abner, and is slain by him, 2 Samuel 2:18-24. At Abner’s motion Joab soundeth a retreat, 2 Samuel 2:25-31. Asahel’s burial, 2 Samuel 2:32.
David inquired of the Lord, by Urim, as 1 Samuel 23:6,9 30:7,8. Thus David begins at the right end, and lays his foundation in God’s counsel and assistance, which now he seeks. He asketh not whether he should take the kingdom, for that was appointed and known before; and he would not offend God, nor dishonour his ordinance, with frivolous and unnecessary inquiries; but only where he should enter upon it; whether in Judah, as he supposed, because of his relation to that tribe, and his interest in it; or whether in some other tribe; for he doth not limit God, but resolves exactly to follow his counsels. Unto Hebron; which was next to Jerusalem, (part whereof the Jebusites now possessed,) the chief city of that tribe, and a city of the priests, Joshua 21:10, &c., and in the very centre or middle of that tribe, to which the whole tribe might speedily resort, when need required.
So David went up thither, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail Nabal's wife the Carmelite.No text from Poole on this verse.
And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron.i.e. The cities or towns belonging and subject to Hebron, which was the metropolis, Joshua 21:11,12; for in Hebron itself there was not space for them all, because it was filled with priests, and with David’s court.
And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead were they that buried Saul.They anointed David king over the house of Judah: this they did upon just grounds, because not only the kingdom was promised to that tribe, Genesis 49:10, but David was designed and anointed by God, whose will both they and all Israel were obliged to observe and obey. And they piously resolved not to neglect their duty, though they saw the other tribes would. Yet their prudent caution and modesty is observable, that they make him king of Judah only, and not of all Israel. And therefore there was need of a third anointing to the kingdom over all Israel, which he had 2 Samuel 5:3. But as for that first anointing, 1 Samuel 16:13, it was only a designation of the person who should be king, but not an actual inauguration of him to the kingdom.
And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabeshgilead, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of the LORD, that ye have shewed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him.This kindness; this respect and affection to procure him burial. For as it is and ever was esteemed an act of inhumanity to deny burial to the dead; so it is an act of mercy and kindness to bury them.
And now the LORD shew kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing.Kindness and truth, i. e. true and real kindness; not in words only, but also in actions, as you have now done to your king, the Lord’s anointed.
I also will require you this kindness; so far am I from being offended with you for this kindness to my late enemy, that I will requite it.
Therefore now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them.Be ye valiant; be not afraid lest the Philistines should punish you for this fact, but take good courage, I will defend yon.
For your master Saul is dead, or
though your master Saul be dead, and so your hearts may faint within you, as if you were now sheep without a shepherd.
But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;Partly out of envy and malice against David; and partly out of his own ambition and desire of rule, because he knew that Ish-bosheth would have only the name of king, whilst he had the power.
Ish-bosheth, called also Esh-baal, 1 Chronicles 8:33 9:39; it being usual with the Hebrews, instead of Baal, the name of false gods, to put Bosheth, which signifies shame, or confusion, or a shameful thing; as appeareth by comparing Judges 9:53, with 2 Samuel 11:21; and 2 Samuel 4:4, with 1 Chronicles 8:31; and from Jeremiah 3:21 Hosea 9:10.
Mahanaim; a place beyond Jordan, whither he carried him; partly to secure those brave and valiant men of Jabesh-gilead to himself; and principally because this place was most remote from David, and from the Philistines too; and therefore here he might recruit his forces with less disturbance than in other places.
And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.Gilead; largely so taken for all the land of Israel beyond Jordan, as it is Joshua 22:9 Judges 10:8.
The Ashurites, i.e. the tribe of Asher, as the Chaldee Paraphrast and others understand it.
Jezreel; a large and rich valley situate in the borders of the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali, and so put synecedochically for them all.
All Israel; except Judah, as it follows.
Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.Reigned two years, to wit, before the following war broke forth; compare 1 Samuel 13:1; for that he reigned longer, may appear both from the following verse and from 2 Samuel 3:1, and from the following history; though some think he reigned only two years, and that the rest of David’s seven years the Israelites by Abner’s instigation stuck to the house of Saul, but were in suspense whether they should confer the crown upon Mephibosheth the right heir, but a child; or upon Ish-bosheth, a grown man, whom with some difficulty, and after long debates amongst themselves, they preferred.
And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.The servants of Ish-bosheth, i.e. his officers and commanders, and their army.
To Gibeon, in the country of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25, near Judah, to fight with David’s army, and to bring back the rest of the kingdom to Saul’s house.
And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out, and met together by the pool of Gibeon: and they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.Went out, to battle.
Quest. How could or durst this one tribe oppose all the rest?
Answ. First, This tribe was very numerous and valiant of themselves, and they had a king of extraordinary courage, and conduct, and success. Secondly, There were great numbers of the other tribes which favoured them, as appears from 1Ch 12. Thirdly, They had the encouragement of special promises of God, made both to their tribe and to David.
Met together, i. e. met the opposite army, and put themselves into a posture for battle.
And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.Abner trusting to his greater numbers, offers battle.
Play before us, i.e. show their prowess and dexterity in managing their weapons, and fighting together. He speaks like a vain-glorious and cruel man, and a soldier of fortune, that esteemed it a sport to see men wounding and killing one another. So this he designed, partly for their mutual recreation, and trial of skill and valour; and partly that by this occasion they might be engaged in a battle.
Then there arose and went over by number twelve of Benjamin, which pertained to Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.Abner selected all his combatants out of Benjamin, both because that was a warlike and valiant tribe, and that he might give the more honour to his own tribe.
And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; so they fell down together: wherefore that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon.By the head; by the hair of the head, which after their manner was of a considerable length, and therefore gave their enemy advantage; which every one of them endeavoured to get, and to improve against the other.
the field of rocks, i. e. of men who stood like rocks, unmovable, each one dying upon the spot where he fought.
And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel, before the servants of David.No text from Poole on this verse.
And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then Abner looked behind him, and said, Art thou Asahel? And he answered, I am.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour. But Asahel would not turn aside from following of him.Take thee his armour: if thou art ambitious to get a trophy or mark of thy valour, desist from me, who am an old and experienced captain, and go to some young and raw soldier; try thy skill upon him, and take away his arms from him.
And Abner said again to Asahel, Turn thee aside from following me: wherefore should I smite thee to the ground? how then should I hold up my face to Joab thy brother?He was loth to enrage Joab too much against him, because his guilty conscience told him that his cause was bad, and herefore he presaged ill success, and that he might need such a friend as Joab to make his peace with David.
Howbeit he refused to turn aside: wherefore Abner with the hinder end of the spear smote him under the fifth rib, that the spear came out behind him; and he fell down there, and died in the same place: and it came to pass, that as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died stood still.The hinder end of the spear was sharp-pointed, after the manner.
Under the fifth rib; the seat of the liver and bowels, where wounds are mortal.
In the same place; upon the spot, not being able to go one step further.
Joab also and Abishai pursued after Abner: and the sun went down when they were come to the hill of Ammah, that lieth before Giah by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill.Where, being upon the upper ground, they might better defend themselves.
Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour for ever? knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end? how long shall it be then, ere thou bid the people return from following their brethren?It will be bitterness in the latter end; it will produce dreadful effects, and many bloody slaughters, if by a further prosecution thou makest them desperate; which is against all the rules of policy.
Their brethren, by nation and religion; whom therefore they should not pursue with so fierce a rage, as if they were pursuing the Philistines.
And Joab said, As God liveth, unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.Unless thou hadst spoken; unless thou hadst made the motion that they might fight, 2 Samuel 2:14. It was thou, not I, that gave the first occasion of this fight. Withal, he intimates that Abner was the sole cause of this war; and that if he had not given commission and command, the war had never been undertaken, but all things had been ended by an amicable agreement; which might have been made that very morning, if he had so pleased.
So Joab blew a trumpet, and all the people stood still, and pursued after Israel no more, neither fought they any more.Either, first, at that time; or rather, secondly, in any pitched battle.
And Abner and his men walked all that night through the plain, and passed over Jordan, and went through all Bithron, and they came to Mahanaim.Bithron; otherwise called the mountains of Bether, Song of Solomon 2:17, which were beyond Jordan; or some other country now not known by that name, which is the case of hundreds of places.
And Joab returned from following Abner: and when he had gathered all the people together, there lacked of David's servants nineteen men and Asahel.No text from Poole on this verse.
But the servants of David had smitten of Benjamin, and of Abner's men, so that three hundred and threescore men died.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.No text from Poole on this verse.